Fast Fact Attack: Endangered Species No. 62 – Blue-eyed Black Lemur

Blue-eyed black lemur in tree

Photographer: Emily Payne / Daily Mail

This little primate, as are  many others, is losing his battle against organised crime. Adopting a  ‘grab it before it all goes’  policy, organised crime is now responsible for up to 90% of tropical deforestation through illegal logging.  And, at an estimated $30 to $100 billion per year, you can see the attraction for the less scrupulous members of the planet.  

Unchecked, which is what they are at the moment, these crime lords are continuing to rape the planet at the expense of wildlife, the environment and indigenous peoples. Although the United Nations Environment Program released this alarming report in September, 2012, this situation has not changed.

You may wonder why so many lemurs are featured here on this page.  The reason being; they are the world’s most endangered primates, with over 91% of species listed on the IUCN Red List as vulnerable to extinct  (twenty-three of those extant are critically endangered).  Shocking statistics!

Blue-eyed lemurs are sexually dichromatic; females are orange-brown and males are black.  The blue-eyed black lemur, also known as the Sclater’s lemur,  **  is considered a true lemur.  The blue-eyed black lemur may be the only primate  (other than humans)  to have blue eyes – an extremely rare occurrence amongst primates.  This is also what differentiates them from black lemurs.

Black lemurs have brown eyes and blue-eyed blacks, as the name suggests, have deep blue eyes.  Black lemurs are known to breed with blue-eyed black lemurs, where their habitat overlaps, but any offspring resulting from these liaisons will only ever have brown eyes.

A medium-sized blue-eyed black lemur can weigh about five and a half pounds.  They can reach an average body length of seventeen to eighteen inches, with a non-prehensile tail length of over twenty-four inches.   They have strong, human-like hands, equipped with rubbery textured skin on the palms, to aid gripping of branches.

Practised climbers, they can cover long distances by leaping through the trees using their long non-prehensile tails as a balancing tool.  Tails which are often carried high in the air as the animals moves.  On the ground, they move in a quadrupedal manner.   They manage to escape danger from humans and natural predators by suddenly dropping from the trees, hurtling through scrub to another tree, and hurriedly climbing out of sight.

The species live together in groups of two to fifteen individuals.  Leadership falls to the females in the group.   Communications between the primates consists of vocalisations, body language, facial expressions and scent marking.  Vocalisations are made up of clicking, barking, grunting and chirping, and males have been heard making a loud ‘scree’ noise when threatened.   This species has also been noted to be highly aggressive within the group.  Fights often break out during the breeding and birthing seasons.

The breeding season occurs from April to June.  Females give birth from August to October, following a gestation period of one hundred and twenty-six days.  Either twins or a single baby will be born.  Neither case is unusual. T he babies will average seventy-five grams in weight.  Both sexes are born with the same brown to black colouration  (males will begin to turn black five or six weeks after birth).

Juveniles are the first to be allowed near the infants.  The father is next in line and finally the other females in the group.  Infants cling to their mothers for the first three weeks of their lives.  After which they will make short trips out to see what is going on around them, but never straying far from the safety of mother.  At the same time they begin to experiment with solids.  The infant won’t be weaned, however, until five or six months of age.

** These beautiful lemurs are named after Philip Sclater, who during the 1800s was secretary of the London Zoological Society.

Primary and secondary sub-tropical moist forests and dry forests.  They can also be found on citrus, coffee and timber plantations.
What they eat
Mostly fruit, pollen and nectar.  They will also eat leaves, seeds, berries and the occasional insect when food is scarce during the dry season.
Habitat loss  (more than 80% in 20-25 years)  due to ongoing slash-and-burn agriculture, selective logging and uncontrolled forest fires.   They are sometimes killed as crop pests. The species is also hunted and trapped for food by the Tsimihety people, a Malagasy ethnic group.  Blue-eyed black lemurs are also captured for the illegal fur, meat and pet trade, and zoos.  Occasionally, they are kept locally as pets.
Status: Critically Endangered
The blue-eyed black lemur  (Eulemur flavifrons)  is listed on the  IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as Critically Endangered.  It is also protected under Appendix I of CITES  and recognised as one of  “The World’s 25 Most Endangered Primates”.  As few as one thousand individuals are thought to exist in the wild, though precise numbers are not available.  In 2012, twenty-nine individuals were recorded as living in zoos.

Crucial work is being carried out by various international agencies and organisations to conserve this species.  Captive breeding programmes are in place around the world, as are various in situ projects concerning local awareness.  Reforestation projects are also currently active.  Although the blue-eyed black lemur and its habitat are protected in parts, poaching and deforestation continue to escalate.  These are serious law enforcement issues which needs to be addressed with some vigour.   

There is further hope for the future of the blue-eyed black lemur, in the form of the very dedicated Duke Lemur Center, Duke University, located in Durham, North Carolina, USA. To see some of their incredible work, click on the ink.  

“When I hear of the destruction of a species, I feel just as if all the works of some great writer have perished”
Theodore Roosevelt

Fast Fact Attack: Endangered Species No. 30 – The Flat-headed Cat

Flat-headed cat

Image via

With partially webbed feet, eyes that act as underwater binoculars and a flattened skull, this adorable little felid is perfectly adapted to its environment.  Its streamlined, elongated and flat head houses small rounded ears and huge close-set eyes.  Its snout is long and sloping.

It has backward facing teeth, just to stop the slippery ones from getting away, and claws which are not completely retractile.  And, it can immerse its head fully in water.  Narrow pads occur beneath the partially webbed feet.  Together, these inherent characteristics make the flat-headed cat a very efficient ‘fishercat’.  Perhaps even more so that its cousin the fishing cat.

Its coat is reddish-brown with traces of grey.  The top of its head is of a deeper rust colour.  Its reddish-brown tail, with its yellow underside, is short, thick and furry.  Overall, it is small, about the size of a domestic cat, growing to only 20 inches in length and weighing 6 pounds at most.

Little is known of the reproductive behaviour of these seldom-encountered cats.  Few have been seen in the wild and only three litters have ever been born in captivity.  A kitten was once found in the wild, alongside its dead mother who had been killed, but its fate seems unknown.  In fact, very little at all is documented about this enigmatic species.

Following limited observations, it is thought gestation lasts about 56 days.  Thereafter, one to four kittens may be born.  Lifespan in the wild is not known.  Although, one flat-headed cat kept in captivity did live up to age of 14 years.

Lakes, streams and swamped lowlands.  Secondary forest, riverine forests and peat-swamp forests.
Sumatra, the Malayan peninsular, Borneo and southern Thailand.
What they eat
Fish, crustaceans, birds, small rodents and frogs.
Habitat destruction and degradation, pollution leading to poisoning, human settlement, drainage for agriculture and hunting.
Status:  Endangered
It is thought there may be less than 2,500 mature flat-headed cats (Prionailurus planiceps) left in existence. They are listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature on the IUCN Red List,  as Endangered.   Hunting and trading are prohibited in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. Habitat protection in the lowland and wetland forests is being addressed.

“Wildlife and its habitat cannot speak. So we must and we will”
Theodore Roosevelt

Fast Fact Attack – Endangered Species 12: Siau Island Tarsier

Siau Island tarsierDescription
Between becoming a fond favourite at the dinner table of the inhabitants of Siau Island, and sharing their home with a highly active volcano, these adorable little primates have been put on a very sticky wicket.
Bug-eyed, nocturnal, tiny and incredibly shy; they look like a cross between a chinchilla and Gollum – and, just look at those near human hands. The astonishing eyes are twice the weight of its brain and its long ankle bone is designed to allow it to jump distances more than 40 times its own length.
Tarsiers are believed to have been on the island for 40 million years.  40 MILLION YEARS – WOW!  Now the locals are eating them by the dozen and driving them to extinction – shocking!
Forests, mangrove forests and scrubland.
The tarsius tumpara is found only on Siau Island (Indonesia)
What do they eat?
Insects, small vertebrates, lizards and small birds. 
Degradation of habitat by the island peoples, hunting and consumption by the island peoples (5 – 10 in one sitting), volcanic eruptions, pesticides, exotic animal trade and various natural predators (dogs, cats, birds, snakes and sometimes civet). 
Status: Critically Endangered
No conservation programs exist on the island. Steps are being taken by local conservation NGOs, in conjunction with local government and International NGOs , to put this right.

“When I hear of the destruction of a species, I feel just as if all the works of some great writer have perished.” U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt